If you followed my episode-by-episode reviews/recaps of ToraDora!, you’ve known this was coming for a while. If you haven’t followed my episode-by-episode reviews/recaps of ToraDora!, nothing to worry about: they aren’t required reading, though this post is the culmination of some thoughts and observations I had while rewatching the show. Namely, hey, wow, Minorin isn’t very straight, is she? Or at least, there’s no reason why she has to be.
As with my previous Make It Gayers, this post will be half textual analysis and half “look, why not? What if?” ToraDora! is a delightfully tangled-up love quadrangle that could only get more delightfully tangled with the addition of LGBTQ+ affections, and having Minorin be secretly in love with a girl rather than a boy doesn’t actually change her character arc, the themes of the show, or indeed any of the plot. If anything, her secretly being in love with a girl makes more sense than secretly being the third character in the show to fall for Ryuji, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves…
Let’s begin with this thesis point: there is evidence within the show itself that points directly to Minorin being a woman loving woman of some variety, be that bisexual or lesbian or anything else on the complicated ever-shifting spectrum of love and sexual attraction. Now, while I still want to make note of, say, that part where Minorin talks about having a buzz cut as a kid and enjoying that more masculine look, you have to remember that how someone presents themselves doesn’t automatically signify that they identify a certain way, gender or sexuality-wise, so I don’t want to jump on that and her tomboyish attitude as “evidence”. There can be some truth to this sort of observation, of course, but it’s still superficial and you shouldn’t make assumptions based on it: for example, sure, a lot of gay men really like the theatre, but it would be an offensive misstep to assume a man is gay just because he likes theatre. Likewise, there’s a certain aesthetic often associated with and adopted by members of the lesbian community, but it wouldn’t be right to assume someone definitely is or definitely can’t be a lesbian based on the way they look.
While sure, Minorin does have the shortest hair (perhaps even The Bisexual Bob, as noted above) in a cast of comparatively boy-crazy long-haired classmates and that might mean something, character design-wise, I want to set things like that aside and instead look at things Minorin says and does. Like her cutting her hair short and wearing the bald cap for her role in the festival (and choosing to sport it again later on), there are a lot of things Minorin does that you probably shouldn’t make assumptions about, but can definitely be read into. Her flustered reactions to seeing Ami in a swimsuit, for instance, can be read either as envy or possible smushed-down-upon attraction, and a flustered reaction to that attraction:
Is Ami’s beautiful body life goals or wife goals? Maybe Minorin can’t tell and that’s the root of her outcry. Maybe I’m totally making stuff up and wrongly assuming that her being positioned next to the genuinely attracted and blushy Ryuji after a set of blatantly fan servicey camera angles is meant to be a point of comparison.
Subtext is by nature a bit of a wobbly thing to examine, so let’s instead examine a scene that is very much text:
“Maybe I prefer girls” Minorin ponders at the school festival. She seems sincere about this question to herself, and it’s not presented as “oh that whacky Minorin” like some of her other antics. Ryuji’s reaction to hearing this is comedic and exaggerated (you can see some of the cartoonish look of horror on his face in that second screencap) but I don’t think this tiny scene is meant to be entirely funny. Ryuji stammers out “Let’s hope that’s not the case!” because of course the idea of the person he’s into not being into his entire gender kind of puts a damper on the prospect of asking her out, and Minorin just smiles quietly and says “Yeah”, adding “That came out so naturally…” in kind of a shocked tone a moment later, before the class bundles them both off to dance and the moment is gone.
Upon rewatching for screencapping purposes, I’m still not totally sure what to make of this part. It’s almost throwaway, and apart from it leading into the tried-and-true romance genre calamity of a meaningful conversation between potential love interests being interrupted and dragged apart by the buffoonery of their classmates, it doesn’t… really add anything. If the purpose of the conversation was just to be hilariously/painfully interrupted, Ryuji and Minorin could have been talking about anything. Why take the chance to raise and then seemingly shoot down this unexpected question of Minorin’s sexuality? This is a question of conservation of detail: if it’s survived all the way from the script to the storyboard to the voice recording to the actual finished product of the show that I’m sitting here watching on Netflix, surely this dialogue is important in some way? Every subtle character interaction in ToraDora! is, because subtle building of character through interaction is what the show is about.
So let’s take the hypothetical road that this scene is, in fact, concreting the concept that Minorin is a young woman questioning her sexuality—as is implied/foreshadowed by things like her appearance and her bonkers reaction to a swimsuit-clad Ami. It happens! A modern high school drama about love is the perfect place to bring in these themes since they’re part of the natural dramatic hubbub of adolescence (and hey, if you want to give this scene a cookie, you could say at least it acknowledges that “preferring girls” is an option, even if it gets shut down, which is a lot more than a lot of shows both in anime and Western television do. It also has Minorin like… just say this, rather than demonstrating it in some sort of male gaze-y physical way, so I guess that’s nice).
To further this hypothetical, ToraDora! is fuelled by an increasingly convoluted love quadrangle, and tangling intentions and affections and failed communication around these characters to trip them up is this show’s bread and butter. You know how we can increase the potential of this love oblong and make things even more delightfully complicated? Make it less heterosexual.
Let’s look at that festival scene again, but backtrack a little to part of Minorin and Ryuji’s conversation before the whole “maybe I prefer girls” shemozzle:
This is in context of the whole nasty situation with Taiga’s father that forms of the emotional backbone of the school festival arc. Minorin and Ryuji have opposing ideas of how to deal with said situation and what’s best for Taiga, which sets them at odds not just emotionally and morally but… also in conflict over Taiga. At this point, it’s because they both care deeply about Taiga as friends, and a theme of found family runs gently through the arc, with the beautiful implication at the end being that Taiga’s finally home because she’s surrounded by people like Ryuji and Minorin who will be there and fight for her, rendering them much more important than her dirtbag biological relatives.
This is beautiful and powerful on its own, and I don’t want to budge that. But. If we’re still playing with this hypothetical situation where ToraDora! is a gayer love quadrangle than it is canonically, this could feed into and hint at a bigger emotional issue. Ryuji’s story is one about slowly realising that he’s fallen in love with Taiga, and protective outbursts and acts of valour like the ones in the festival arc are definitely part of this, gently adding and alluding to his growing feelings. So, what if the same was true for Minorin? What if we flip the outcome of the terrible love triangle and have her secretly be in love with Taiga, rather than Ryuji?
Really, it would only take a few tweaks to the plot. Minorin is still uncomfortable about realising Ryuji likes her, and she still turns him down because she can see that Taiga’s in love with him, and it’s still because she values Taiga’s happiness over her own… but that selfless act comes from romantic love rather than platonic. Minorin still grapples with the guilt of keeping her feelings a squashed-down secret, and Ami still calls her out for this, leading to that same clash of ideologies between the two girls… but again, the secret she’s keeping is her crush on Taiga rather than Ryuji.
She’s still heartbroken and horrified about breaking Taiga’s treasured Christmas star. She still values Taiga the most in the world and hates the idea of drifting apart from her. She still weeps at the end of the show because her first love has left with somebody else. You can even still have the scene where she runs full pelt through the school yelling a confession of her true feelings as she chases Taiga down, just have those feelings be for Taiga herself. She knows the love is unrequited and can see that Taiga and Ryuji adore each other, and so she’s still fighting for them to get together and achieve mutual happiness even if it’s at the expense of her own… you just make the seemingly subtle shift and have her love Taiga instead of Ryuji.
Minorin still gets a character arc about accepting and expressing her negative or less user-friendly feelings and ending up a more balanced person. Taiga and Ryuji still get their drama and then bittersweet happy ending. Ami still gets mad at her about the whole thing, then begrudgingly supports her because she understands. It’s all still there, plot points and crucial themes and all!
As I’ve said before, having the girl who ends up heartbroken and alone, sobbing on the stoop while ‘Jenny’ by Studio Killers plays with a strangely mournful quality in the background, be the queer character, is not stellar representation. This can be fixed easily enough, though—as usual, it comes down to having a spectrum of queer characters and queer storylines. Have another girl get a crush on Ami, or something. Have Glasses Guy and Hoodie Guy realise they really love each other after all this time being thirsty bros. Have the long-suffering hilariously husband-less homeroom teacher find a wife as her happy ending. Or end with the implication, at least, that Minorin gets some sort of romantic closure or perhaps a new love interest now that she’s a more balanced and mature person—it would be as simple as having her holding another girl’s hand in that shot of her we get in the flash-forward at the finale.
As always, this is not to devalue the friendship between Taiga and Minorin, or to say that a story about Minorin romantically loving Taiga rather than “just” platonically is automatically more interesting and important. It’s just one way of reading it. Ironically, if Minorin’s feelings for Taiga were romantic, we probably would have come to understand their relationship better, since the show has a long and annoying track record of putting heavy focus on the dynamics that are or end up as romantic and tossing friendships to the wayside. Since we don’t really know how or why they’re friends, or the deeper machinations of how they feel about each other when it’s not in regard to Ryuji or big dramatic events like the festival, there’s actually plenty of room to speculate on and embellish this relationship.
This is also not to devalue the dynamic between Minorin and Ryuji, because frankly Ryuji is lovely and I can understand falling for him in a sea of mediocre high school dudes even if he does have those freaky eyes. It’s just to say… look, thinking about it now, having Minorin’s big secret that she’s working so, so hard to cover up be a crush on him seems like kind of a cop-out. If nothing else, everyone guesses that she has a crush on Ryuji before it’s revealed, so it would be the ultimate plot twist and drama-booster to have it be the opposite of that expectation. And ToraDora! loves its drama boosts.
Combine the scraps of information we do have with Minorin’s seemingly Taiga-prompted question about whether she “prefers girls”, grab some glitter and tape, and you can very much patch and fill the holes in our knowledge to create a bittersweet story about a girl falling for her best friend and ultimately having to give her up out of that selfless love. It’s not the story we got, but it would have been the icing on the cake of a fantastic and heartbreaking show about the weird intricacies of teenaged love.